Championship Promotion run-in: Leeds United champions, Brentford pip West Bromwich Albion

8 min

The Championship promotion battle may not be as tight as the relegation scrap but the prize at stake is just as intense – a place in the Premier League.

Brentford currently sit third in the table, five points behind second-placed West Bromwich Albion as they chase a historic promotion in their last season at Griffin Park.

Elsewhere, the Play-Offs spots are becoming clearer to predict with arguably only sixth place and the final spot still up for grabs.

Ayub Ali assesses those in the promotion picture and predicts who will be celebrating at the end of the season…

1: Leeds United (Points: 78)

Before the coronavirus shutdown, Marcelo Bielsa’s men were enjoying a five game winning streak with a comfortable victory over local rivals Huddersfield Town seeing the Whites go top and seven points clear of third.

The restart hasn’t seen the same flourish of form though, with the side dropping points to both Cardiff City and Luton Town.

Fixtures: Stoke (H), Swansea (A), Barnsley (H), Derby (A), Charlton (H)

Verdict: A tough run-in against opposition who have something to play for at both ends of the table. Bielsa will nevertheless use all his managerial nous to navigate Leeds to promotion as champions.

2: West Bromwich Albion (Points: 77)

The loss to Brentford early in the restart not only hurt the Baggies but may also come back to haunt them with the Bees showing their automatic promotion intent.

Their form has been solid, if not unspectacular and they will continually look to the creativity of Matheus Peiriera in their bid for Premier League promotion.

Fixtures: Derby (H), Blackburn (A), Fulham (H), Huddersfield (A), QPR (H)

Verdict: With in-form Brentford breathing down their neck, the margins for error are small and games against Derby and Fulham in particular being pitfalls which will ultimately cost them second place.

3: Brentford (Points: 72)

Brentford may have been happy with a top six finish at the start of the season but four straight wins since the restart and no goals conceded sees them now threatening the top two.

The ‘BMW’ continue their remarkable form in front of goal with Said Benrahma, on the back of his incredible hat-trick against Wigan, continuing to prove the immense talent at his disposal.

Fixtures: Charlton (H), Derby County (A), Preston North End (H), Stoke City (A), Barnsley (H)

Verdict: Derby County pose the trickiest of their upcoming opponents and should they overcome that then they will pip West Brom for the second automatic promotion place.

READ MORE: How Brentford have built a squad capable of reaching the Premier League

4: Fulham (Points: 70)

Fulham’s patchy form before the lockdown has continued since the restart, further compounded by the Aleksandar Mitrovic retrospective ban for an elbow on Leeds’ Ben White.

Scott Parker’s side face one of the toughest run-ins and will need to find a way to be more ruthless in attack without Mitrovic if they are to see an instant return to the Premier League. 

Fixtures: Nottingham Forest (A), Cardiff City (H), West Bromwich Albion (A), Sheffield Wednesday (H), Wigan Athletic (A)

Verdict: Although Mitrovic will return against Cardiff, over-reliance on him will see the Cottagers finish fifth and in the lottery of the Play-Offs.

READ MORE: Fulham need a plan B for their promotion push – and it can’t just centre around Aleksandar Mitrovic

5: Nottingham Forest (Points: 68)

Fired by the goals of Lewis Grabban, Forest are currently unbeaten since the restart and will be hoping to gather momentum in this final stretch of the season.

The former European Cup winners have quietly gone about their business this term with Sabri Lamouchi slowly making a name for himself in his first season at the City Ground.

Fixtures: Fulham (H), Preston (A) , Swansea (H), Barnsley (A) , Stoke City (H)

Verdict: The Fulham game is the big one – a game which Forest should edge over a Fulham side missing Mitrovic and will help them eventually finalise a more than creditable fourth-placed finish.

6: Cardiff City (Points: 64)

Cardiff have been converted into genuine promotion contenders since former Millwall boss Neil Harris replaced Neil Warnock as manager back in November.

Following indifferent form before the pandemic, the Welsh side have been rejuvenated since the restart with Cardiff winning all but one game and playing some of the best football they have all season.

Fixtures: Blackburn (H), Fulham (A), Derby (H), Middlesbrough (A), Hull City (H)

Verdict: The games against Fulham and Derby will define their season but they should have enough about them to retain sixth place and secure a Play-Off place.

READ MORE: Neil Harris leaves Millwall with his legacy as a club legend intact

7: Derby County (Points: 61)

Another side who are in good form since the restart, winning three and drawing one with youngster Louie Sibley particularly making a name for himself in the process.

Mixed with the Rams’ youthful exuberance is England’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney and his experience will be vital in the side’s Play-Off push.

Fixtures: West Bromwich (A), Brentford (H), Cardiff City (A), Leeds (H), Birmingham City (A)

Verdict: The Rams undoubtedly have the toughest run-in compared to anyone else in the league and for this reason they will just miss out on a top six finish.

8: Swansea City (Points: 60)

Swansea’s loan acquisition of England youth internationals Rhian Brewster and Conor Gallagher were seen as a real sign of intent for a promotion push back in January.

Their burgeoning partnership has continued to develop over recent games with the loss to Luton being Swansea’s only slip-up since the season restarted.

Fixtures: Birmingham (A), Leeds (H), Nottingham Forest (A), Bristol City (H), Reading (A)

Verdict: The Swans will have to rely on other fixtures as well as get results against the likes of Leeds and Nottingham Forest meaning that the Play-Offs will be a step too far this season.

9: Millwall (Points: 59)

The Lions’ season has been a tumultuous rollercoaster with the Play-Offs never crossing the mind of the most optimistic supporter when Neil Harris left back in October.

Lying 18th, Millwall have enjoyed steady improvement under new boss Gary Rowett which has meant they are in touching distance of the top six.

Fixtures: Middlesbrough (H), Hull City (A), Blackburn Rovers (H), QPR (A), Huddersfield (H)

Verdict: The Lions’ form since the restart is not good enough to challenge for the Play-Offs but a ninth place finish will give them something to build on next season.

READ MORE: Gary Rowett’s fashionable Millwall are making fans dare to dream of the Premier League

10: Preston North End (Points: 58)

After being top of the table back in November, Preston will be disappointed to find themselves 10th going into the final five games of the season.

The side are winless since the restart and their main priority will be to rediscover the scintillating form they showed in the early stages of the campaign.

Fixtures: Sheffield Wednesday (A), Nottingham Forest (H), Brentford (A), Birmingham City (H), Bristol City (A)

Verdict: Out of form and too out of touch with the rest of the pack means any chance of achieving a Play-Off place is well beyond their reach.

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